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4 Simple Steps to Building Patient Loyalty

One of the key tactics for any successful business is to build loyalty with your customers. Loyal customers are what keep your patient base solid as you add new ones. They can also be a strong referral source for your pharmacy. To build loyalty, you will want to create that “stickiness” with them, so they choose you over competitors, even when they are tempted to try someone new.

But how do you build loyalty other than offering great customer service? Here are four simple steps to get started:

1. First impressions matter

Seven seconds is all it takes for someone to make a first impression. How will you do it? This time will either be spent walking into or calling the pharmacy. If it is a new person coming into the pharmacy, what will they see? What does the outside of the building look like? Are weeds overgrown, or the sidewalk broken up? Or does it look warm and inviting? We recommend you and your staff come in the front door at least once a month and look at it through a customers’ eyes. What will the customer see when they enter the pharmacy? Are the shelves stocked and clean? Would you shop in your pharmacy?

Another important aspect to creating a great first impression is your staff. Are people greeted right when they walk in the door? When someone calls a pharmacy, does the staff sound cheerful and eager to help? Or do they seem bothered by the interruption? Consider using friends or family members as secret shoppers. Have them call the pharmacy and ask questions, and then come in as a new customer and see how your staff handles the situation. This can be a great learning tool for everyone. Share the positives and negatives with your team and create goals (if needed) for where improvements can be made. Patients are five times more likely to select a business because of a positive experience than any marketing that the business has done. Which makes this first interaction with a potential new customer so important.

First impressions are also made even before a new customer walks into or calls the pharmacy by researching you online. It is estimated, 71% of patients consult online reviews before selecting a healthcare provider. What kind of impression does your online reviews give? If you haven’t had a recent review, or Google or Facebook are dominated by negative ones, it will give a new customer pause on using your pharmacy. How much potential business could you be losing? At a minimum, try and do a weekly review of your online presence. Google, Facebook and Yelp all let you setup notifications to receive an alert when a review is posted to your page. It is important to respond to positive and negative reviews. To the unknowing customer, negative reviews that aren’t responded to by the pharmacy owner can seem like you don’t care or aren’t aware of what’s going on. If you haven’t received any reviews in the past few months, ask your customers to give a review. You can ask them at the register, through Facebook or email.

2. Convenient & Personalized

Loyalty is built on trust. A patient will come to trust you and your advice on products and services. To earn that trust, do not sell them things they don’t need. Everyone wants to improve their bottom line, but selling products unnecessarily is not the way to do it and can cause more harm than good. When looking at products to carry in your pharmacy, only purchase those you would use or recommend to your family.

When planning your marketing, it is important to remember to invest in promoting to your current customers as well. Research has shown that businesses spend 10x more money to get new customer than they do to current ones. You can’t assume that because they now use your pharmacy, they always will. Do you think your competition has stopped marketing to your new customer just because they started using your pharmacy? Of course not. In addition, people’s needs change, so if they find more value elsewhere, they may leave. That is why it is important to strengthen a patient’s loyalty with every visit. Thank them for coming in today, ask if there is another else you can do to help, or answer any questions they might have. Take it a step further and show your appreciation by having annual customer appreciation events, sending emails to customers on their birthday and more. Saying “Thank You” and showing your appreciation for their business can go a long way to building loyalty.

3. Be transparent

Be upfront and honest with your customers. If you don’t know something or there is an issue with their insurance, or a price increase for example, tell them. Don’t guess in a situation, then backtrack because the initial information was wrong. Nothing frustrates a customer more than being lied to or led on. These types of situations are what leads people to post negative reviews online or share the experience with their friends.

We recommend doing a customer survey at least once a year. You can ask for feedback through online survey, or in the pharmacy or through a mailing. Make it easy for customers to feel like they can give honest feedback or address any potential issues. Anytime you do a survey, it is important to act on it. If you can’t make the suggested improvements, or do not want to, that will just frustrate your customers even more. Take the recommendations (good or bad) and share with your staff along with what you intend to change. Your customers will feel appreciated for not only asking for their opinion, but also by acting on it.

4. Never stop trying to impress your customers

Poor service is defined as incompetency, staff manners and slow service, and is often listed as the number one reason people become disloyal with a business. Running a successful business means always trying to impress your customers to keep their loyalty. Let your staff know what your expectations are for interacting with customers. Consider role playing to see how they handle different situations.

This also means you can’t be stagnant on what you offer customers. Introduce new products and services to keep them loyal to your pharmacy. Consider offering a loyalty program, where they are rewarded for their purchases. Looking back at your customer survey results, what new products or services are customers asking for? When you add it, make sure to let people know you made good on their request. Another way to keep people loyal is investing in new technology. Make it easy for them to refill their prescriptions, or text you with a question about a new vitamin they just started taking. Continuous improvements to your pharmacy will help keep customers loyal for many years to come.

Loyal patients are the key to maintaining a successful pharmacy. Incorporate a loyalty promotion in your Q4 marketing plan, and your customers will reward you with long-term devotion for years to come.

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